PREVIEW: Five matches in the Women's World Championship Play-offs are played on Saturday, and just 60 minutes of handball will decide who makes it to the final tournament in Denmark
Germany under pressure, Hungary, Netherlands, France already halfway there
Based on the first-leg results from last weekend, there are favourites in all five matches when the Women’s World Championship Play-offs resume on Saturday.
Hungary, Netherlands, France and Romania have all carved out a big lead in last weekend’s games, while Russia will take to the court in Astrakhan out to defend their 22:20 away win they recorded against Germany.
The EHF live ticker will be available for all five games.
Hungary vs Austria; Saturday 13 June, 13:30 hrs local time / First leg 33:20
After Hungary’s 33:20 win in the first match against Austria last Saturday, the return match almost seems like a formality for the EHF EURO 2012 bronze medallists.
In the first match, the Hungarians controlled the game from the beginning until the end, and there is nothing that indicates that Hungary head coach Andras Nemeth’s team will get in any kind of trouble in the second leg.
However, Austria are determined to not go down without a fight.
"There are still certain things we can consider, and we are definitely not going to lie down like a mouse in front of a snake," said Austria’s coach Herbert Müller.
Slovenia vs France; Saturday 13 June, 16:00 hrs local time / First leg 20:27
For the first fifteen minutes of the first leg Slovenia were able to keep up with France’s game, but when the score stood at 8:8 the French women took control.
However, Slovenia were not trailing far behind and it was only in the dying minutes of the match that France really ran away as they scored the last four goals, which sees them enjoy a very comfortable seven-goal lead ahead of the second leg.
Therefore, there is no doubt that a tough challenge awaits Slovenia when they welcome France in the Rdeca Dvorana of Velenje on Saturday afternoon.
Russia vs Germany; Saturday 13 June, 17:00 hrs local time / First leg 22:20
It all seemed decided in Dessau one week ago when Russia led 8:2 only ten minutes into the game, but eventually Germany found their rhythm and at the end the score stood at 22:20 in Russia’s favour.
Still, this result obviously grants Russia a good chance to make up for failing to qualify for the World Championship 2013 in Serbia when they face Germany for the second leg in Astrakhan on Saturday afternoon.
"Russia are the slight favourites. We missed too many opportunities in the first match. Therefore, we will have to improve our attack in Astrakhan," says German head coach Jakob Vestergaard.
"So far, we have been concentrating a lot on our defence, now we will have to focus on our attack."
Russia head coach Evgeny Trefilov disagrees: "There are no favourites for the second leg, in my opinion. We must play even more focused than we did in the first match," he says.
Romania vs Serbia; Saturday 13 June, 17:00 hrs local time / First leg 32:26
Romania led 32:24 some minutes before the end of the first leg, but even the fact that Serbia scored the last two goals one week ago, probably did not trouble head coach Tomas Ryde and his team too much.
The win came in particular courtesy of Cristina Neagu’s outstanding performance. The Romanian back court ace scored 11 goals and was not to be stopped by the Serbian defence.
Stopping Neagu will also be the key for Serbia this time when the teams meet in Cluj, but it remains to be seen whether simply this – if successful at all – will be enough for Serbia to catch with Romania’s six-goal lead.
Czech Republic vs Netherlands; Saturday 13 June 19.10 hrs local time / First leg 23:33
In the first half of the first leg Czech Republic seemed to be on their way to spring a surprise and record an important away win as they led 16:15 at the break.
However, a 13-minute scoring drought jeopardised all their hopes as Netherlands took control and eventually carved out a 10-goal win.
This obviously gives the Czech women’s team an extremely steep mountain to climb at Most in Saturday evening, as the Netherlands are the obvious favourites for the ticket to the World Championship in Denmark.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
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